Lamont Weekly Report, August 16, 2013
August is usually a time of year for fieldwork and vacations, but this week included a target submission date for proposals to the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Sciences Division, so e-mail traffic prompting me to approve proposals by Lamont scientists peaked sharply. The bonus for me was an opportunity to read about some of the most promising ideas for research projects being proposed by our staff.
On Monday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that a consortium of universities, including Columbia and Lamont, will manage a new Science and Resilience Institute designed to promote “an understanding of resilience in urban ecosystems and their adjacent communities through an intensive research program focused on the restoration of Jamaica Bay” (http://www.mikebloomberg.com/index.cfm?objectid=7325EC9E-C29C-7CA2-F9A8B6C8A8D4471B). Arnold Gordon has spearheaded the planning for Lamont’s scientific role in the new institute. The lead university for the consortium will be the City University of New York (http://www.qchron.com/editions/south/jamaica-bay-to-be-site-of-cuny-environmental-institute/article_14c519d6-ba6b-585a-9c37-c00a3d7cebfd.html).
Another in a series of meetings on opportunities for expanding the partnership between NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University was hosted by Mike Purdy on Monday. Participants from NASA included Nicholas White (Director, Sciences and Exploration Directorate), Piers Sellers (Deputy Director, Sciences and Exploration Directorate), and Peter Hildebrand (Director, Earth Sciences Division) from the Goddard Space Flight Center and Gavin Schmidt from GISS; and participants from Columbia included Dean of Science Amber Miller; Adrian Hill from Mike’s office; and Jeff Sachs, Peter Schlosser, and me from the Earth Institute. Action items were assigned and accepted by the NASA and Columbia sides, and a follow-on meeting is planned for early October.
The R/V Langseth sailed Tuesday from Reykjavik, Iceland, to begin a survey of the southern Reykjanes Ridge. The expedition, for which Dick Hey of the University of Hawaii serves as scientific leader, will collect multibeam, gravity, and magnetic field data to test hypotheses for how the mantle dynamics underlying the Iceland hotspot affected the reorganization of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge south of Iceland (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/research/office-of-marine-operations/cruise-summaries/2013-cruises/bight-reorganization-geophysics).
A new arrival to the research blogs on the Lamont Web site this week (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/research/blogs/malawi-earthquakes-assessing-danger-east-african-rift) tracks the fieldwork of Donna Shillington and Jim Gaherty in Tanzania and Malawi as they install a network of portable seismometers as part of a larger geodetic, seismological, magnetotelluric, and geochemical study of a portion of the East African Rift. The study site was selected as a type example of early-stage rifting of a strong continental lithosphere at low rates of extension (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/~djs/segment/main.html), and regular reports of progress can be expected on the blog.
Pete Sobel, Art Lerner-Lam, and I held several meetings this week with members of Lamont’s Advisory Board. We hosted a visit by Jeffrey Gould on Monday; we met with Susan Holgate, Sarah Redlich, and Julian Sproule in Midtown on Wednesday; on Thursday Larry Lynn brought former Board member Bill Baker to a lunchtime meeting at Lamont; and Kathleen Semergieff visited the Observatory today. The four sets of discussions were part of a continuing effort to seek advice from Board members on opportunities to link Lamont to communities interested in our mission and our expertise.
Recent news stories on research at Lamont have been particularly abundant. An article in Journal of Climate by former Lamont graduate student Yutian Wu – now at New York University – Lorenzo Polvani, and Richard Seager that examined the consequences to global rainfall patterns had the world not adopted the 1987 Montreal Protocol to phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) was the subject of a press release by Kim Martineau last week (http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/news-events/ozone-protection-treaty-had-climate-benefits-too-study-says). Their study, covered in media stories (http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/the-ozone-defending-montreal-protocol-is-a-gift-that-keeps-giving), showed that continued use of CFCs would have led to further destruction of stratospheric ozone, additional heating of the atmosphere, further poleward shifts in the jet stream, increases in tropical precipitation, and further decreases to precipitation in subtropical deserts. A related paper in Geophysical Research Letters by Kevin Grise, Lorenzo, and coauthors on the effect of the Antarctic ozone hole on southern hemisphere winds, cloud patterns, and hemispheric warming was the subject of articles in The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/09/antarctic-ozone-hole_n_3731877.html?utm_hp_ref=green) and other media.
In additional news, a paper in Nature last week by Maureen Raymo and colleagues from Japan and Switzerland describing a coupled insolation, climate, and ice sheet loading model for northern hemisphere ice sheets over the last several hundred thousand years that can match, for the first time, the repeated gradual advances and rapid retreats of ice sheets on approximately 100,000-year cycles was featured in news stories in The Christian Science Monitor (http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2013/0807/Ice-ages-Why-North-America-is-key-to-their-coming-and-going) and Science (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6146/599.full). A story on air pollution in China on CNC World last Friday featured interviews with Steve Chillrud and Beizhan Yan on their work in the area (see the segment from 7:50 to 10:10 into the video at http://www.cncworld.tv/Lifestyles/v_show/35302_5.shtml). An article published that day by Mother Jones (http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/08/buried-muck-clues-future-nyc-drought) highlights the work of Dorothy Peteet on reconstructing the history of drought in the New York region from pollen records in local marshes.
So whether you’re feeling warmer and drier or waiting expectantly for the next ice age, the scientific output of Lamont’s scientific staff has continued apace during the academic doldrums of August.